Raleigh, N.C. — Local events are planned around the peak of the Perseid meteor shower in Durham and Raleigh across three days.
Duke University’s Department of Physics will open its observing site in Duke Forest to the public on Aug. 13 from 8:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m. This free open house event is normally on Friday evenings, but this date adds the Perseids to the planets, nebulae and detailed features of the Moon visitors can experience.
The site is is located in the Duke Forest on Cornwallis Road between Kerley and Murphy School roads and can be a bit challenging to find. Search “Duke Teaching Observatory” in Google maps, and 5000 W. Cornwallis Road in Durham will also get you close in other navigation apps.
Don’t expect to see a giant observatory dome when you arrive. Duke’s observatory is an open field fitted in 2002 with nine steel mounting piers buried in two feet of concrete providing a stable base for those telescopes. Students from “PHY 55: Introduction to Astronomy” will teach you how to operate the 10-inch Schmidt-Cassegrain telescopes and to navigate the night sky. Those mounting piers provide an incredibly stable base. I saw Neptune and its moon Triton for the first time with my own eyes several years ago at the site.
Duke plans sessions are planned for Aug. 31, Sept. 7 and Sept. 14 from 8:30 to 10:30 p.m. Earlier sessions are planned on select Fridays in October, November and December. Check the Duke Teaching Observatory website for details.
I’d also check the website before going to ensure weather hasn’t canceled the evening’s observing.
Morehead Planetarium and Science Center will host a free skywatching event at Dorthea Dix Park in Raleigh on Aug. 12 from 9 to 11 p.m.
Amateur astronomers from The Raleigh Astronomy Club and Chapel Hill Astronomical and Observational Society, along with educators from Morehead, will share their knowledge and their telescopes. Meteor showers are best observed at a relaxed pace, so bring a blanket or chairs and relax under the stars.
Finally, The Durham Hotel opens its roof to visitors on Aug. 14 at 9 p.m. for the tail end of the Perseids’ peak. Morehead educators will provide guided constellation tours and “celestial cocktail creations,” and DJ Mic Check will provide the music.
Tony Rice is a volunteer in the NASA/JPL Solar System Ambassador program and software engineer at Cisco Systems.
You can follow him on Twitter @rtphokie.